My review of the custom carbon Titici Vento begins on a trajectory, away from the usual performative small-talk pickled through paid reviews. Because frankly, it feels like every new bike on the market is voted the "best bike ever", with the fastest and lightest aero profile thats proven to perform in the latest accurate wind tunnel.... As a general rule new bikes always feel amazing on a first test ride. Which is why I've taken my time to test the Vento on a variety of terrains and conditions including windy coastlines, longer steep climbs, flats and even several trips to the local Crit track in Ipswich. So let’s take a peek at the problems with bike review discourse before revealing what is different about this frame. Then we can get to the most important part, analysing the ride feel.
Cycling Discourse: disconnect and misinformation
There's plenty of misinformation surrounding bike manufacture. It's partly due to complex and divergent jargon shared by brands and marketers. But a fair few fallacies are spread by consumers themselves, including stories about carbon manufacture and what makes a bike good. On one hand you can read a review and hear how better the new model x is. On the other hand you can listen to a bunch member at a cafe preach how all carbon frames are the same, (like I heard last week).
There are so many ways to refute these claims, but I thought it best to use my Titici review as an example of a carbon frame built specific to fit requests and to noticeably differ in quality, feel, and handling from anything else. For clarification on what constitutes a custom bike, please head to “What is a custom bike?”
I have very recently written an article on carbon manufacture, “Road bike carbon frame construction: What you need to know”, which includes a look at Titici's method of production. I recommend reading this if you are interested in a more rounded review. But suffice to say, much care in Titici’s development of tube shapes, layering mold process and wrapping tube-to-tube technique provides a good example of how customisable a bike really can be. Not just a unique work of art, the construction techniques in building this frame illustrates how customisations benefit riders who’ve specific requirements.
Carbon layup of carbon tubes. Image: Titici
Carbon sheets cut to tube shape before layering in a mold. Image: Titici
During a trip to Italy last year we spent time with Titici’s extremely knowledgable brand Manager, Roberto Sambinelli. Our tour included several showrooms and offices, a complete bike fit lab, and workshops where frames were being prepped, stored, and built. The newly built facilities were architecturally impressive to say the least. But more impressive was the technology involved in the frames with an obvious focus on high performance from roots in MTB, and later branching inot both gravel and road frames. I will share more on Titici as a company in weeks to come as we’ve received so much interest.
What did we learn in terms of how Titici differs from other self proclaimed custom builders? Titici has the unusual position to design and own their own tube molds and build tubes in-house. Titici’s engineering and ownership of tube molds affords them ability to truly personalise fit and ride feel. This is different from competing frame builders who order pre-made tubes or, more alarming, outsource the build overseas. As you will see, Titici have a very intriguing logic behind the most noticeable top tube, the patented Plate Absorber Technology (PAT).
When it comes to the freedoms afforded Titici by in-house productions, I more recently asked Roberto how their techniques of bonding tubes by wrapping affects a rider’s experience on the road. As I explain in the article “Roadbike Carbon Contruction: what you need to know” I explore carbon types and look at their make-up, as well as the processes involved in construction. The use of techniques and carbon is seen to effectively alter resulting feel and even handling of a frame. Roberto confirms, "We can manage the wrapping layers according to customer's request. We can realize the BB more rigid, or less wrapping layer to reduce weight. Obviously, all these requests lead to having frames with different characteristics in terms of weight, stiffness, handling based on the amount of wrapping layers used during the construction process."
Tube to tube construction of the Vento Image: Titici
When it comes to my Vento, Titici have used the Bladder Carbon Fibre moulding technique alongside the wrap bonding tube-to-tube. As Roberto, mentions, "We work with our own molds with pre-preg carbon fiber." This is unique for custom frame builders as the process of creating molds is an expense which can be outsourced. However Titici create everything in-house, which allows them to determine a fully customised tube in shape and architecture.
The Carbon Effect: Appearance
While the outer appearance of my frame is finished in 3k, the majority of a frame is built with Unidirectional pre preg carbon (UD). This is an aesthetic choice as I wanted to show the skill of the builder who layers and bonds the carbon so perfectly to the human eye. But there are tradeoffs as it does add incremental weight (in terms of grams). This isn’t a concern for me, but for the weight weeny, a light lick of paint would easily cut a few grams by exchanging the extra carbon and varnish.
I've written about frame geometry in reference to mass manufacture process, and the generic size frames compared to custom. It's perfect to use a specific bike as an example.
Stage one: My brief
I had a clear view of what I wished to use the bike for. As mentioned above, intentions affect the construction, so clarity from the beginning is necessary.
My needs were as follows: On a fundamental level this bike was to ignite my love for road riding. I wanted equipment that would let me keep up, but at the same time challenge me. I wanted a bike I loved to take out the door at 6am. I wanted a motivational weapon to get me back into shape. I also wanted something that, unashamedly would give me pride sitting at the vafe no matter how many years of ownership.
On a practical level? I would rely on this bike getting me through long hours on the saddle with as little pain as possible, (understanding of a chronic neck issue). The frame was to be desirable for long endurance rides, but simultaneously race ready for any bunch sprints the boys would reliably dish out.
On a functional level, I have unique measurements - long limbs and fair flexibility. This has lead to a history of owning generic frames with dramatic seat height to bar ratio. But while I claim to be a macro-fitter, I’ve a high pain threshold. So this bike would be tailored to ensure I retain my ideal position for the length of any ride without compromising comfort. I needed to be positioned accurately. At my age I don’t want to deal with the consequence of repetitive movement injury. The bike geometry should consider my flexibility and my mobility to work towards efficiency and comfort.
Because I predominantly ride on gravel, I also needed this bike to move well without relying on me following a 6 days week training regime. It’s unrealistic to expect I consistently train on the road. There are weeks I’ve no desire to ride road, and prefer the freedom provided by a Fulgaz session on the trainer. In saying this, my handling skills are up to scratch due to consistent MTB style gravel riding, so I can afford a bike that feels reactive or snappy. I also wanted something to motivate me to get out more.
A big intention of ordering custom is that I’ve no desire to sell it in the near future. Ideally I ride this in years to come so it needs to suit me, and the aesthetics needs to continually inspire me.
Stage 2: Bikefit
It’s remarkable to note that this bike is made according to measurements, but follows an IdMatch dynamic bike fit that over one session has analysed and recorded my flexibility and mobility on the bike. This data is fed into the geometry.
During the hour spent with our bike fitter David, my measurements, weight and flexibility were accurately measured and recorded. The IdMatch program compares my physique against the averages, and as expected my height, inner seam, and arm length were longer than average. This explains why I've previous issues with comfort in the past, especially resulting in aggravating a neck issue and arm numbness on long rides.
Important to note is that the bike I had enjoyed the previous few years was the Wilier Cento10 NDR, a model that was recently replaced by Wilier’s Grand Turismo. Because my set-up worked, the NDR was ideal to use as a starting position on the Smart bike.
In my case I began, as all clients do at Chainsmith, with a comprehensive pre-purchase bikefit in the IdMatch Bikefit lab. We used the NDR as a base, and from there we progressed to the ideal customised version to closely synchronise to the resulting Vento geometry. Importantly, I had the opportunity to experience the proposed geometry on the smart bike, before the details were sent to Titici.
The work behind the scenes continued as the frame construction began. Time to decide on the paint...
Stage 3: Painting
Paint can be the most difficult stage of the process for many riders. Some riders like to replicate their favourite car colour or perhaps a pattern that reminds them of a time in life or a place. I’ve also seen donuts, and rivers, and names and fish ingeniously incorporated into graphics. But after a few custom bike purchases, I know have a standard process for graphics. I choose a favoured artist, choose a particular work, and then allow the painter to use it as inspiration. Fortunately I had already a Deanima bike with a similar graphic we could replicate.
Once the paint was completed by Tonys Spray, I was sent photos before the frame was packed.
The arrival of a frame is always exciting, even when the bike isn't yours. When it is yours, it's like unwrapping a gift at Christmas. And when its in your hands you feel like you’re holding the most valuable work of art.
Stage 4: The Build
The build itself was uncomplicated. We had considered the Shimano Durace 12spd, but I specifically wanted to use the Classified R50 wheelset, and the wait for a compatible part was 8 weeks. I wanted to ride now. I chose SRAM Force which is wireless due to the bluetooth set up. While you still need technical knowledge when it comes to setting up a bike, within a day Ben at the Chainsmith workshop had completed the build.
The Classified wheels were the perfect way to complete this build. Ive been using the gravel CF G30 Classified wheels for months on my Deanima frame. The change in ride-ability (climbing in particular) and style is a complete consequence of using these wheels. I remain gobsmacked and excited by this innovation. I'd go so far to say that adding a Classified powershift rear hub is the most drastic upgrade to be made on a single chainring bike.
It won't be long before I share my review of the Classified wheels after now testing them on all matter of terrain over gravel and road conditions. Suffice to say I am well aware of the privilege I have adding them to this Titici frameset. Having access to the newest innovations and high performance products the cycling industry produces is a gift appreciated.
On a side note, aesthetically speaking I couldn’t be happier with the build result. Its always a boost when you’re waiting at the lights and a nearby rider tells you how amazing the bike is - with its fully integrated cabling, the paintwork, the integrated bar and stem. Ego counts for a lot when it comes to cycling, and women are just as prone to good feelings prompted by bike related compliments.
Now, to the feel of the bike. As I mentioned, a new bike immediately feels good. But two things happen from then on. 1, you remain excited to get on the road in the months to come. Or 2, you experience this kind of inkling that, just maybe, your bike is missing something. Perhaps you buy a few gadgets or upgrade some parts, but in all that feeling doesn't really change. I can unequivocally state, there is nothing missing from this frame or the build.
The Feel: the good, the bad, the beautiful
Because a bike doesn’t just come as a frame, that would be hard to test!, I will look at the frame as much as the components.
On the flats this bike is snappy and quick to respond. She’s notably stiff in the headset which is what Im used to. I was however perplexed when I had anxiety on the first few descents. I considered this might be due to a weight discrepancy between the front and rear. The Classified rear systemhub adds some weight compared to other carbon wheels and because the front end is stiff but very light Id a thought this might be why I felt the need to push my weight more forward. It was a few weeks before I realised I’d underestimated the psychological effects a recent crash on gravel (that fractured several ribs) had on me. I’d hit a protruding rock while descending at 50k/hr. And so Im convinced my initial hesitation was fed by bad stack memories.
Having ridden plenty of rough country roads with steep descents and tight corners since, I can fully trust the bike to follow where I lead it and, when no-one’s looking, push the bike as hard as I can. The Magnus aerobars by Ursus are thankfully extremely firm. Ive ridden with integrated aero bars in the past, but these feel incredibly good in my hands. There are no problems with comfort, and because my fit is in sync the transition to the drops is smooth. I can maintain position on the drops for extended times, and notably without neck pain. No road chatter is felt through my hands, and because Ive tested the bike with nothing but Velocio luxe gloves, Ive not masked the feel with padding. Nor do I need to.
What did come as a surprise is how weak my core had become as a result of the rib injury where I was over a month off the bike. It was noticeable when standing out of the saddle, particularly on rough roads and steep ascents. The bike is stiff and if you haven’t the strength I’d think you’d need a few practice runs and some abdominal work to balance your body and prevent moving about. Ive since recovered, and with a little core work I’ve not experienced problems since.
For the other touch points: the saddle and the feet. There is nothing to be added here. My position is dialled in, and at this stage I’ve no issue with comfort nor bike handling. You will note that the head tube is higher than most available generic brands, this allows me the luxury of “slamming the stem” with only positive consequences of having the bike carve into the path I ask of it. There’s also a healthy amount of seat post to dampen road noise, and this leads us to the top tube PAT, of which Titici vouches "absorbs up to 18% more vibrations than a standard frame. The energy generated by rough ground is dissipated so it has no effect on the cyclist’s hands and back.” I can’t truly test that the top tube is responsible for this. What I can say is that I rode a particularly tough country road and was originally thinking why it was taking me so long, and why the climbs felt so much tougher. The reason? Aside from the general harsh road conditions, the kilometres of roads are notoriously known for large rocks implanted in the bitumen. Why I didn’t immediately consider the road surface as being responsible for holding the bike back is because it was so damn comfortable, and I whether it was the rubber or the combined components, or the PAT that dampened the feel I can’t exactly say. I understand the numbing of the road feel isnt for everyone - especially those who prefer steel or ti, But for someone with a history of neck pain and headaches both triggered by bumps and chatter, this was a very pleasant experience.
What I will remark on is the reactivity of this bike, and combines comfort in fit and feel, the manageability of the handling, and the exciting technology incorporated within the build have given me such a renewed passion for riding a bike. And that in one line, sums up my original requirements.
What to look forward to when buying a custom bike with the lot
Both the Titici staff and the team at Classified have my full kudos, because I am totally convinced products such as these, when prepared, built, installed and used correctly, can prolong athletic pursuits of ageing and passionate cyclists.
Even when you've experienced periods where you've lacked time or energy for training and fitness is low, this is where the technology excels.
I experience very low periods when I return from Europe. The mornings are difficult times for me to feel either energetic or motivated. At times I admit, the trainer is more attractive than the preparations of riding on streets or the abuse that often accompanies a ride in Sydney. Im a seasoned and confident rider who can handle the bike. But Sydney is an unforgiving City environment, a stark contrast to the beauty and tolerance experienced on Italian roads.
Owning a masterfully built custom frame and installing the most suited components for your body and your performance aspirations is the best way to help when you mentally or physically just aren't able to regularly get out for 4 rides a week. And to anyone who feels all bikes feel the same, it’s hard to believe you’ve experience custom quite like this.